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Bulgari’s Noteworthy New China Marketing Campaign on a Happy ‘Jew’ Year of the Pig (Zhu)

Bulgari’s wordplay is multidimensional, but did it consider Jewish people?

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A new marketing campaign by Italian luxury brand introduces “JEW” as a supposed ‘buzzword’ for the Year of the Pig (Zhu in Mandarin).

On January 4th, the Italian jewelry company Bulgari launched a remarkable campaign on WeChat and Weibo to promote its luxury goods for the New Year, which for China, will be the Year of the Pig.

The campaign was first spotted by Nathan Baker (@NateyBakes) who wondered on Twitter:

So Bulgari’s WeChat account just put out an article that spells the Chinese word for pig in a special way. Wonder if they consulted with any Jewish people first.”

The campaign on Weibo is introduced as follows (loose translation):

At the beginning of the new year, let your charm stand out. The Bulgari special Lunar New Year collection is launched. In the new year, you’re the ‘pearl’ (‘JEW’) in the palm [‘beloved one’]” [“新年伊始,你的魅力已展露锋芒. 宝格丽农历新年特别款作品全新上市. 新的一年,要你做掌上明JEW.”]

The campaign uses a few posters that show their new jewelry collection together with pigs.

The word ‘JEW’ is multidimensional in its Chinese use here by Bulgari.

(1) Firstly, it is a wordplay on the Mandarin pronunciation for ‘pig’ (猪) zhū, which, when pronounced, sounds similar to the English ‘Jew’ (listen here).

(2) Second, the use of ‘Jew’ in English could also be seen as an abbreviation for ‘jewelry.’

(3) Third, the campaign uses various Chinese idioms starting or ending with a character that is pronounced as ‘zhu‘ in Mandarin, where ‘Jew’ is used as a substitute. It is a play on words, as it could mean either ‘pig,’ ‘jewelry,’ as well as still conveying the meaning of the original idiom.

The Chinese idiom “pearl in the palm” or “beloved daughter” (掌上明珠, zhǎngshàngmíngzhū), for example, is written as “掌上明JEW”: it sounds the same, but the last character is replaced with the English ‘Jew,’* which then also changes the meaning of the idiom to something along the lines of “having a jewel in the hand” – which is used to promote a Bulgari watch.

The Chinese idiom 胸有成竹 (xiōngyǒuchéngzhú), meaning to have a well-thought-out plan, is used in combination with ‘Jew’ here, which also gives it a double meaning since it could then literally be translated as “your chest turns into jew[elery],” which is used to promote the necklace in the first picture.

Another idiom used in the campaign is 诸事顺利 (zhūshìshùnlì), which means that everything is going smoothly, and in which the first ‘zhu‘, again, is replaced by ‘JEW,’ which brings about a wordplay that the Bulgari jewelry is supposedly smooth, as well as the [year of the] pig.

All in all, one could argue that Bulgari’s marketing team has created a new marketing campaign that mixes up Chinese characters, English, and idioms in such a way that thinks of Chinese tradition and promotes their own luxury products.

However, as Nathan Baker notes, there is a sensitive problem in this campaign regarding the use of the word ‘Jew,’ especially when framed together with the images of a pig, which will surely raise more than a few eyebrows and, marketing-wise, is probably not a smart move for the Italian luxury brand.

Update: Wow, that was fast. The campaign already seems to have been deleted from Wechat as well as from Weibo.

By Manya Koetse

*Thanks to Annelous Stiggelbout for clarification

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Celebs

Female Comedian Yang Li and the Intel Controversy

A decision that backfired: Intel’s act of supposed ‘inclusion’ caused the exclusion of female comedian Yang Li.

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“How to look at the boycott of Yang Li?” (#如何看待抵制杨笠#) became a top trending topic on social media site Weibo on Monday after female comedian Yang Li was dismissed as the spokesperson for American tech company Intel over a controversial ad campaign.

On March 18, Intel released an ad on its Weibo account in which Yang says “Intel has a taste [for laptops] that is higher than my taste for men” (“英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高.”)

The ad drew complaints for allegedly insulting men, with some social media users vowing to boycott the tech brand. On Sunday, Intel deleted the ad in question from its social media page and reportedly also removed Yang from her position as their brand ambassador.

The commotion over the ad had more to do with Chinese comedian Yang Li (杨笠) than with the specific lines that were featured in it.

Yang Li is controversial for her jokes mocking men (“men are adorable, but mysterious. After all, they can look so average and yet be so full of confidence“), with some blaming her for being “sexist” and “promoting hatred against all men.”

Since she appeared on the stand-up comedy TV competition Rock and Roast (脱口秀大会) last year, she was nicknamed the the “punchline queen” and became one of the more influential comedians in present-day China. Yang now has nearly 1,5 million fans on Weibo (@-杨笠-).

Yang Li’s bold jokes and sharp way of talking about gender roles and differences between men and women in Chinese society is one of the main reasons she became so famous. Intel surely knew this when asking Yang to be their brand ambassador.

In light of the controversy, the fact that Intel was so quick to remove Yang also triggered criticism. Some (male) netizens felt that Intel, a company that sells laptops, could not be represented by a woman who makes fun of men, while these men are a supposed target audience for Intel products.

But after Yang was removed, many (female) netizens also felt offended, suggesting that in the 21st century, Intel couldn’t possibly believe that their products were mainly intended for men (“以男性用户为主”)? Wasn’t their female customer base just as important?

According to online reports, Intel responded by saying: “We noted that the content [we] spread relating to Yang Li caused controversy, and this is not what we had anticipated. We place great importance on diversity and inclusion. We fully recognize and value the diverse world we live in, and are committed to working with partners from all walks of life to create an inclusive workplace and social environment.”

However, Intel’s decision backfired, as many wondered why having Yang as their brand ambassador would not go hand in hand with ‘promoting an inclusive social environment.’

“Who are you being ‘inclusive’ too? Common ‘confident’ men?”, one person wrote, with others saying: “Why can so many beauty and cosmetic brands be represented by male idols and celebrities? I loathe these double standards.”

“As a Chinese guy, I really think Yang Li is funny. I didn’t realize Chinese men had such a lack of humor!” another Weibo user writes.

There are also people raising the issue of Yang’s position and how people are confusing her performative work with her actual character. One popular law blogger wrote: “Really, boycotting Yang Li is meaningless. Stand-up comedy is a performance, just as the roles people play in a TV drama.”

Just a month ago, another Chinese comedian also came under fire for his work as a brand ambassador for female underwear brand Ubras.

It is extremely common in China for celebrities to be brand ambassadors; virtually every big celebrity is tied to one or more brands. Signing male celebrities to promote female-targeted products is also a popular trend (Li 2020). Apparently, there is still a long way to go when the tables are turned – especially when it is about female celebrities with a sharp tongue.

By Manya Koetse

Li, Xiaomeng. 2020. “How powerful is the female gaze? The implication of using male celebrities for promoting female cosmetics in China.” Global Media and China, Vol.5 (1), p.55-68.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

Chinese Comedian Li Dan under Fire for Promoting Lingerie Brand with Sexist Slogan

Underwear so good that it can “help women lie to win in the workplace”? Sexist and offensive, according to many Weibo users.

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Popular talk show host and comedian Li Dan (李诞) has sparked controversy on Chinese social media this week for a statement he made while promoting female underwear brand Ubras.

The statement was “让女性轻松躺赢职场”, which loosely translates to “make it easy for women to win in the workplace lying down” or “make women win over the workplace without doing anything,” a slogan with which Li Dan seemed to imply that women could use their body and sex to their advantage at work. According to the underwear brand, the idea allegedly was to convey how comfortable their bras are. (The full sentence being “一个让女性躺赢职场的装备”: “equipment that can help women lie to win in the workplace”).

Li Dan immediately triggered anger among Chinese netizens after the controversial content was posted on his Weibo page on February 24. Not only did many people feel that it was inappropriate for a male celebrity to promote female underwear, they also took offense at the statement. What do lingerie and workplace success have to do with each other at all, many people wondered. Others also thought the wording was ambiguous on purpose, and was still meant in a sexist way.

Various state media outlets covered the incident, including the English-language Global Times.

By now, the Ubras underwear brand has issued an apology on Weibo for the “inappropriate wording” in their promotion campaign, and all related content has been removed.

The brand still suggested that the slogan was not meant in a sexist way, writing: “Ubras is a women’s team-oriented brand. We’ve always stressed ‘comfort and wearability as the essence of [our] lingerie, and we’re committed to providing women with close-fitting clothing solutions that are unrestrained and more comfortable so that more women can deal with fatigue in their life and work with a more relaxed state of mind and body.”

Li Dan also wrote an apology on Weibo on February 25, saying his statement was inappropriate. Li Dan has over 9 million followers on his Weibo account.

The objectification of women by brands and media has been getting more attention on Chinese social media lately. Earlier this month, the Spring Festival Gala was criticized for including jokes and sketches that were deemed insensitive to women. Last month, an ad by Purcotton also sparked controversy for showing a woman wiping away her makeup to scare off a male stalker, with many finding the ad sexist and hurtful to women.

 
By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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